9. Sopot by the Book

This year’s Sopot by the Book festival finds us going through a tough time. We’re watching as our planet’s slowly dying. We see wars and face online controversy stirred up by paid trolls. We get hurt and keep hurting. How does Canada fit in this context as the festival’s special guest?

Thinking about Canada, we would like to cut through the stereotypes we cherish in Poland and use literature to both explore the most painful experiences of Canadians and describe their successes as regards media policy and environment protection.

First and foremost, we would like to give a platform to the cause of the First Nations. The debate with Joanna Onoszko-Gierak, Monika Płatek, Tanya Talaga, and Steven Cooper aims to present to the Polish audience the seriousness of the problem and the constant harassment of the indigenous peoples by the Canadian state. We also would like to talk about how Canadians deal with their guilt and look for solutions to make sure those days are over.

During the second debate (Anthropocene), we are going to talk to scientists and artists about the unbelievable scope of environment degradation we have witnessed for several decades. Our mindless and extensive projects as regards our environment resulted in a situation in which humanity has to deal with climate changes, natural disasters, and mass migrations.

Bur are we barbaric only towards the nature and other people? Is the 21st century the time of free circulation of information, significant technological advances, and bringing people together? Or is it the century of irresponsible individuals who use electronic media to manipulate our imagination, shape societies, and incite large-scale conflicts? We will be talking about it during the Marschall McLuhan in the World of Algorithms debate with Andrew McLuhan, the grandson of the famous researcher, Derrick de Kerckhove, his last assistant, Anna Nacher of the Jagiellonian University, and Mirosław Filiciak of SWPS University.

One of our guest will be Michael Crummey, whose debut novel River Thieves deals with the relations between the native people of Newfoundland, the Beothuk, and European settlers. His last book, The Innocents, Polish translation of which is going to be first presented during the festival, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

We have also invited Patrick deWitt, who has won the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for The Sisters Brothers. The book was adapted for the cinema by Jacques Audiard, who received the Silver Lion for Best Director in 2018.

David Szalay’s works have won many awards. The collection of short stories titled All That Man Is was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In August, his latest book Turbulence will be presented in Poland.

Female writers are also going to be represented at the festival as their status in the Canadian literature is unquestionable.

With her Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien managed to enchant even Alice Munro, no less. She was also awarded both the Scotiabank Giller Prize and short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. A young, emerging writer of Malaysian-Chinese background, she is regarded as the hope of the new generation of writers.

Last but not least, Esi Edugyan, she has twice won the Giller Prize – for Half-Blood Blues and Washington Black (Polish translation to be presented for the first time at the festival). Half-Blood Blues received shortlist honours for the Man Booker Prize.

Joanna Cichocka-Gula
The Director of Sopot by the Book Festival

Pic. Renata Dąbrowska